Since last tasting success with the C&G Trophy in 2002, Yorkshire are the only county not to have lifted a trophy. Cricket correspondent Chris Waters says it is now time to put that right.
YORKSHIRE’s target going into the new season is simple: to win a trophy.
No ifs, no buts, no secondary aspiration.
For a club of Yorkshire’s size and stature to have gone 12 years without lifting any silverware is too long.
They must do everything in their power to stop the rot in 2014.
It is a remarkable statistic that Yorkshire are the only first-class county not to have won a league or cup competition since they themselves lifted the old Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy in 2002.
If it is not quite the equivalent of Manchester United going 12 years without a trophy in football, then it is not far off, given that Yorkshire are the self-styled Manchester United of cricket.
As at football’s Old Trafford, expectations in Yorkshire cricket are Everest-high – higher than at any other first-class county due to the club’s size, resources, and above all, history.
Yorkshire dominated English cricket from the official constitution of the County Championship in 1890 right through to the Silver Sixties, when they last possessed a truly great side, and the simple truth is that those expectations have not been met for many years now.
So Yorkshire’s challenge this summer could not be clearer.
And the good news is they have every chance – indeed, some might say a gilt-edged one – of ending this silverware drought if they maintain their progress of the last two years.
Since Jason Gillespie arrived at the club as first-team coach, Yorkshire have secured back-to-back returns of promotion and a runners-up finish in the Championship.
They have also made their first appearance at a Twenty20 Finals Day, with their runners-up berth taking them through to the international Champions League.
The natural progression this summer would be to finally win something – be it the Championship and/or a limited overs competition in the form of the Twenty20 Cup and the new Royal London 50-over one-day cup.
Yorkshire have as good a chance as anyone in the four-day game, which they bossed for three-quarters of last summer until Durham pipped them at the post, while they have signalled their intent in the one-day formats by signing the Australian batsman Aaron Finch, one of the most explosive players in the world.
With New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson also on the payroll, Yorkshire have the international class to complement a seam bowling attack that is one of the strongest in the country – if not the strongest, with the likes of Ryan Sidebottom, Tim Bresnan, Steve Patterson, Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks, to name but five.
As ever, much will depend on England calls.
How much will Yorkshire actually see of Joe Root and Gary Ballance?
Not much of Root, you suspect, while Ballance may be wanted for the Test matches, too.
How much will the county see of Bresnan?
A bit more than usual, perhaps, seeing as though he can no longer take his Test place for granted.
And how much will they see of Jonny Bairstow?
Quite a bit, probably, after his own international ambitions took a bit of a hit in the winter.
Yet there is no reason to suspect that Yorkshire will be so badly affected that their trophy hopes become unrealistic; on the contrary, they are more realistic now than at any time since they last won something.
Of course, a certain amount of luck – as well as skill – is necessary to win a tournament.
Injuries and bad weather can play a part, and you need the rub of the green as well.
Had Yorkshire not been the worst-hit of the 18 counties weather-wise in 2012, for example, they would surely have won the Championship Second Division instead of Derbyshire, and the stigma of being the worst-performing county since 2002 in terms of silverware would not now be theirs.
But the fact is they did not win it, and their long-suffering fan base deserve to know what it feels like to celebrate a trophy again.
It is a feeling which, since Yorkshire won that old C&G tournament, the supporters of Sussex have experienced no fewer than nine times, with the south coast county having won three Championships since 2002.
It is a feeling which another five counties have experienced on five occasions, and another three counties four times – including arch-rivals Lancashire.
Why, it is a feeling which even Northamptonshire have experienced following their Twenty20 Cup success last summer. And as each year goes by, and as Yorkshire’s glory days become more distant, so this monkey clings more tightly to their back.
Throughout their lean years, Yorkshire have retained the capacity to talk and act positively.
We have often heard how they have the best youngsters in the country, the best and most athletic fielding side in Twenty20, and that no one can live with them on their day in any competition, and so on.
This is not intended to belittle them – but to emphasise how good they are and the fact it is not unreasonable for supporters to expect the success that the team are capable of achieving.
Now the time has come for Yorkshire to take that all-important final step and to see the job through by winning some silverware.
Although Yorkshire have indeed taken great strides forward in the past two years, anyone tempted to get too carried away or to pat themselves on the back too hard should consider this.
When Hampshire pipped Yorkshire to the 1961 Championship title, thus interrupting a stellar sequence of success under the captaincy of Ronnie Burnet, Vic Wilson and Brian Close, the players were left in no doubt what the club’s committee felt about the runners-up finish.
Brian Sellers, the uncompromising cricket chairman and former captain, quashed any sense of self-satisfaction at a job well done when he walked into the dressing room and laid bare his views.
“You’ve won nothing,” he told the players, thereby emphasising the standard to which Yorkshire cricket aspired – and to which it must aspire once again.